5 Steps to Get Your Business Ready for Voice Search

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By Iainf 05:15, 12 August 2006 (UTC) - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1044583
By Iainf 05:15, 12 August 2006 (UTC) - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1044583

Voice search query volume is rising. This form of search has been waiting in the wings for many years (arguably, it’s been waiting to make its entrance since the 1960s, when Star Trek’s voice-responsive computer serviced the information needs of the Enterprise’s crew).

Now that smart, microphone- and speaker-equipped mobile devices are practically ubiquitous, voice search is finally having its day. Today, search-capable devices include smart phones equipped with software from Google or Apple, and smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and Alexa. Currently there are estimated to be at least half a billion devices capable of supporting this new kind of search, and the number is growing rapidly as smart, voice search-capable speakers march into the home.

So what does the advent of voice search mean to you, the marketer, in charge of running your own (or your clients’) online properties? Does the emergence of voice search mean that you’ll need to rethink your content strategy? Your site’s U/X? Your site’s technical infrastructure?

The good news is that as long as you’ve stuck to good web publishing practices, the changes you’ll have to make are modest and iterative.

Preparing Your Web Assets for Voice Search

  1. Establish Your Current Readiness
    How fit are your properties to meet the needs of voice searches right now? Obviously, it’s best to get a diagnosis before prescribing a cure. Begin by searching for your own company – and your competitors — using a voice search-capable device. Odds are that you’ve probably done extensive research on how your competitors are ranking for business-driving keywords on desktop SERPs. But how are these keywords ranking on mobile devices using simple conversational queries? Researching your visibility for a variety of relevant conversational queries can give you valuable insight into what you must do to rank with your own content.
  2. Build on the Foundation That Already Exists
    Getting ready for voice search rarely means re-building your web properties from scratch. If you’re already adhering to good SEO practices, you’ll be in a good position to exploit voice search. Google’s recent algorithms have been preparing the way; Hummingbird, as you’ll recall, represented a major advance for Google in terms of being able to better able to understand the implicit meaning of the kind of short-string queries typically made from mobile devices, including voice queries.
  3. Work to Produce “Conversational Content”
    Create content that’s likely to rank for such specific conversational queries, for example, Q&A-style content that discusses a topic authoritatively using the question/answer format. FAQ-style content is well-suited for this task. FAQ-like content can exists as pages or blog posts on your site. To source content for these FAQs, look to your Customer Support Department. They likely have scripts, manuals, and other data from which FAQ-style content can be sourced. Consult with people with deep, granular knowledge of the mechanics of your company’s products, e.g. your CTO, head of operations, Chief Engineer, and other detail-aware people.
  4. Create More Locally-Oriented Content
    “Near me” searches (“pizza near me,” “plumbers near me,” etc.) use geography as a filter to limit results to geo-relevant queries. Becoming relevant to local queries starts with making sure that your location(s) is correctly entered and verified via Google My Business. Create a body of original content focused on your location: its landmarks, community resources, and history that makes it clear that your local roots are deep. Add these to your site and use Google Posts to publicize them.
  5. Focus on Mobile Site Performance
    Site performance on mobile devices has been a ranking factor with Google since 2015. Technical optimization is rarely fun (especially if it means upgrading your ISP, hosting provider, or server hardware), but you can’t afford to have your site suffer from poorly-optimized Javascript, CSS, or caching issues. Even if a subjective evaluation establishes that your site performance is OK, it’s always best to compare these results with those provided by Google, which offers an excellent set of mobile performance evaluation tools.